Should cars get grades on fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions? Would a grade make you think differently about buying a new car?

Easy Answer: The EPA has proposed new labels for cars that include a letter grade for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions. The grading scale runs from A+ to D. (I guess they don't want to give any car a FAIL.)

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation introduced two new label possibilities for new cars. The first (to the right) gives every car a grade. The second label they've proposed looks a little more like the MPG sticker car buyers are familiar with.

According to the EPA, the changes would be "the most significant overhaul of the federal government's fuel economy label since its inception over 30 years ago." Why now? The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 asks the government to rate cars and trucks according to fuel economy and greenhouse gases.

The Associated Press reports that grades for cars would go something like this: "an average vehicle on fuel efficiency and emissions would receive a B-. Electric vehicles would receive an A+, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles would earn an A and three gas-electric hybrids -- the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius -- would get an A-. The best-selling passenger car in America, the Toyota Camry, would receive a B or a B-, depending on the vehicle's engine. Hybrid versions of the Camry would earn a B+. The top-selling pickup truck, the Ford F-150, would receive a C+ or a C, based on the engine variant. Luxury models such as the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorana and the Mercedes-Benz Maybach 57 would get a D+ and the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti would receive the lowest grade of D under the plan."

Some environmental groups are pleased with the new label suggestions. Vickie Patton, general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund said in a press release, "It can be difficult to sift through all the technical and scientific information about clean cars and fuel economy, and you shouldn't need a Ph.D. to buy a car. These proposed new labels will make it much easier for consumers to comparison shop. With clearer labeling, consumers can make smart choices that protect our economy, our security and our environment."

What do you think about the new labels? Would they change they way you think about buying a new car?

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
Log in to post4 Comments

Heard your piece this morning. Your British expert thinks we need something more than letter grades to change our driving habits to be in line with Europe and Japan. Really? A continental nation who's history is bound up in migration as personal choice "MUST" acquire driving habits similar to island nations and nationstates the size of individual states in this nation?

My brother lives just south of the bridge connecting the two parts of Michigan, I live in Detroit. My inlaws live in Joliet, IL. Try driving five hours to either in an uninsulated (for sound) econo box that my wife and I hardly can fit in. What if I had kids? And I'm not listing cargo issues here. There are quite simple environmental and cultural reasons why Americans drive larger cars across the board than other large, mature car markets.

The idea that putting some sort of a letter grade on a car and that it will help attract buyers to the greenest car is a JOKE. Most people when they go to buy a car look for what best suits their needs and desires at the best price. If they are really into being totally green they probably know what they are looking at and for.

I can't imagine a worse scenario than buying a car based only on it's "grade" or gas mileage. Continue to post consistent standardized verified gas mileage predictions and let us decide on the car that's best for our needs.

I see no problem with offering more information to help you make a very expensive purchase. While it wouldn't be the only factor I would use to decide it may help differentiate between two or three models that I am considering.

With Generous Support From...